April 25, 2007

Finland Security spending more on fighting espionage

Security Police spending more money on fighting espionage

Source : HELSINGIN SANOMAT INTERNATIONAL EDITION http://www.hs.fi/

Preventing terrorism rises to second place on SUPO priority list


The civilian intelligence service (Suojelupoliisi – SUPO – Security Police) has been described as a Finnish counterpart of the FBI. It is accountable to the Interior Minister. Its tasks comprise counter-espionage and the prevention of activities which might pose a threat to Finland’s internal security and its international relations, as well as combating terrorism

Counterespionage is taking an increasingly large proportion of the resources of Finland's Security Police (SUPO). According to its fresh annual report, SUPO spent about EUR 5 million on counterespionage activities last year, which is more than one third of its entire budget.

The report contained SUPO's first itemised budget, which had a bottom line of more than EUR 14 million. Previously SUPO had only made public the total amount of its spending.

Prevention of terrorism, which has attracted the greatest amount of media attention, was the second-largest item in the SUPO budget. Just under one third of the budget - about EUR 4 million - went into surveillance of hard-line Islamist movements.

Fighting terrorism took top priority a few years ago. The September 11th attacks in the United States led to 15 new positions opening up in SUPO, raising total personnel to more than 200.

Other activities comprised 35 per cent of the SUPO budget - the same as was spent on counterespionage alone.

Internal security - fighting various extremist movements - took over EUR two million, while protection of politicians and foreign guests cost about EUR 1.7 million, and preventative security activities cost EUR 0.8 million.

British and American intelligence officials have warned recently that Russia has sharply increased its surveillance activities in the two countries. Russian reconnaissance is believed to be at levels that it reached during the Cold War. It is practiced by both Russian military intelligence (GRU) and the country's civilian intelligence service (SVR).

The Finnish and Swedish security police services take a more moderate tone in their annual reports. Finland's SUPO will not even name specific countries, noting that foreign surveillance in Finland has remained at a steady level.

"In 2006 the number of aggressive recruitment attempts was not seen to be greater than in previous years, even though the number of foreign intelligence personnel in Finland has slightly increased", the report reads.

Finland's role as the holder of the European Union Presidency in the second half of last year led to increased surveillance here. However, of much greater interest to foreign intelligence services was the degree of Finnish interest in NATO membership, and energy questions.

Sweden's Security Police (SÄPO), meanwhile, notes that foreign intelligence services have been granted broader authority and more resources, which could lead to an increase in illegal intelligence gathering on Swedish soil.

In its annual report, SÄPO emphasises anti-terrorist activities significantly more than Finland's SUPO. SÄPO's budget for last year was more than EUR 85 million.

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